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TV Note: WPXI general manager to retire at year's end

Saturday, September 29, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

John Howell, general manager of Pittsburgh's Cox-owned television station WPXI for almost 18 years, will retire at the end of the year. His successor has not been named.

Howell joined Channel 11 in 1984 and took the station from third place to a neck-in-neck race for No. 1 in the local Nielsen ratings, a race Channel 11 has frequently won in recent ratings periods.

It's those ratings that made everything else in his tenure possible, Howell said.

"I'm very proud of the people I've helped develop here, managers who have gone on -- in some cases even to the competitor -- to find their way successfully in the business. I'm real proud of those relationships," Howell said. "I'm proud of the cable channel [PCNC] and the cluster [of Cox regional stations], but if we hadn't been able to fix the ratings and become something besides the laughable alternative we were 18 years ago, none of that would have been possible."

Howell, who will be 55 in December, said he has no immediate plans for his retirement, other than spending the winter living near family in a condo he owns in Southern California. Howell and his wife, Gail, plan to keep their home in Pittsburgh.

"I'm a firm believer that if you can retire and if you want to retire, then you should retire," Howell said. "I come from a long line of folks who retired early and did it successfully .... My parents are getting older, my grandkids are growing up, I'm missing things."

He plans to spend time golfing, traveling and possibly getting more involved in the community.

"In the early days [of my career] I covered municipal government," Howell said. "There was always a lot of interesting stuff going on. I don't want to run for office, but I could be on a planning commission or involved in zoning issues. I really think when you get that close to people you can really affect their lives."

A former news director, Howell began his broadcasting career at a radio station in Palm Springs, Calif., in 1966, before moving into television four years later. Before coming to Pittsburgh, he served as news director for stations in two small California cities as well as Detroit and Buffalo, N.Y.

In May 2000, Howell assumed additional responsibilities for Cox-owned stations in Johnstown and Steubenville.

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